Monitoring the Polish gas distribution network from Space

The Polish national gas distribution network provider Polska Spółka Gazownictwa sp. z o.o.  PSG for short own and maintain some 185,000 km’s of underground gas distribution pipelines, of which approx. 8000 km are medium elevated and high pressure pipelines. PSG have a legal requirement to monitor these high medium elevated and high pressure pipelines on an annual basis for issues with vegetation and building encroachment.

Like many gas network providers PSG conduct annual visual monitoring via the use of helicopters who fly the length of the high pressure network, but is there a more cost effective, environmentally friendly solution that can pick up on more issues than the human eye?

Spottitt proposed that:

  • the cost and imagery capture capacity of sub meter resolution satellite imagery rivals that of aerial visual inspection

  • the use of cloud computing and machine learning means that trained algorithms could be used to search for, and highlight issues pixel by pixel faster and more accurately than the human eye

In June Spottitt conducted a proof of concept exercise on 80 km of PSG high pressure gas distribution pipelines using 50 cm resolution Pleiades imagery from Airbus and algorithms trained to detect:

  • Vegetation encroachment (trees and tree roots too close to the pipeline)

  • Building encroachment

  • Potential gas leaks (areas of lower than expected vegetation health close to the pipeline)

So what were the results like?

Even with no-go buffer zones of just a few meters either side of the pipeline, the algorithms developed by Spottitt’s Earth Observation specialist Asterios Papastergios accurately classified and flagged trees, buildings and potential gas leaks along the entire 80km of gas distribution pipeline monitored.

Spottitt’s estimated service provision cost for annual monitoring approx 25% cheaper than traditional aerial visual inspection.

Anticipated increased detection rates of vegetation, building and potential gas leak issue detection via automated analysis of each image pixel versus traditional aerial visual inspection.


Please note that the imagery and examples shown are for imaginary PSG gas pipeline routings.

Next steps

PSG have asked Spottitt to provide a quotation for national monitoring of their entire 8000km medium elevated and high pressure gas distribution network and are currently evaluating our proposal.

The Spottitt team are grateful to PSG for the opportunity to conduct this proof of concept and look forward to future collaboration.

With satellite imagery providing global coverage this technology and the algorithms developed can be applied to gas distribution network providers globally, and to other network providers, such as oil, water and power.

If you would like to find out more about the technology and team behind the accurate, cost effect monitoring of networks from space, please contact Spottitt.

This opportunity to work with Polska Spółka Gazownictwa sp. z o.o. (PSG) is very much thanks to our involvement with the Polish accelerator program, Startup Hub Poland. Spottitt was selected to participate in the first batch of this program in Jan 2019 with acceleration taking place from Feb – Apr 2019 and final demo day in June. The program provides innovative foreign start-ups looking to incorporate in Poland with soft landing package, equity free funding, taylored mentoring and most important of all introductions to potential Polish partners and investors. It was this introduction to PSG that meant we achieved first meeting, through completed proof of concept to being asked for a quotation to provide national coverage in less than 12 weeks!!